Oprah Winfrey has staged many a family reunion on her talk show. But on Monday’s episode, she promises, the drama will be about her. Winfrey told viewers Thursday that she will have a reunion of her own on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She wouldn’t say with whom – only that it involves something she’s learned about recently and is known to only a few people close to her.
“I thought I’d seen it all. But this, my friends, is the miracle of all miracles,” Winfrey says in a promotional spot for the show. The word “miracle” appears on screen, reinforcing her pronouncement. “I was given some news that literally shook me to my core. This time, I’m the one being reunited,” she said. “I was keeping a family secret for months, and on Monday you’re going to hear it straight from me.”
Her production company, Harpo, declined to provide further details Friday. Given Winfrey’s tangled family history, the possibilities for her reunion are many. She was born to unmarried teenagers, Vernon Winfrey and Vernita Lee, and raised at various times by a grandmother, her mother, and her father and stepmother in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Tennessee, according to Winfrey and various biographies.
However, Kitty Kelley’s unauthorized 2010 biography of Winfrey alleges that Vernon Winfrey isn’t Oprah’s biological father. Kelley also claims that she discovered the actual father’s identity but was keeping it secret until Winfrey learns the truth herself. As a teenager, Oprah Winfrey gave birth to a son who died shortly afterward. That chapter of her life was revealed after a family member sold the story to a tabloid in 1990, and Winfrey was said to have felt betrayed.
Using her Chicago-based show to disclose a new wrinkle in her personal history allows her to keep other media from getting hold of it first. Winfrey has proved herself a master at milking family reunion drama, celebrity and otherwise, on her syndicated talk show that’s in its 25th and final season. This month, she launched a cable channel, OWN.
She reunited more than 100 members of the Osmonds. She brought together both the screen family from “The Sound of Music” and descendants of the real-life members of the musical Von Trapp family portrayed in the film. After decades apart, singer Seal and his foster sister were reunited on Winfrey’s show. There was also the memorable reunion involving Clemantine and Claire Wamariya, sisters who escaped the Rwandan genocide and later immigrated to America without knowing if their parents had survived. They learned they had, but it wasn’t until they were onstage with Winfrey that the sisters saw their mother and father again.